Though women have been able to shake off many of the stereotypes that have confined them for decades, there still seems to be an unwritten rule that a woman should have long hair. Today women are shedding this stereotype by shaving their heads.

Women have more freedom now than in any other time in history. Women are speaking up for themselves, fighting against exploitation and pushing for equality but they still feel the pressure of beauty standards. Some beauty standards have been around for generations but there are also new beauty standards that have developed throughout the years and are portrayed in media, which affect women’s lives daily.

“Not a lot of people do a buzzed haircut for a woman,” Darlynn Lockett said, a 24-year-old woman, who first shaved her head in 2016. She is one of many women who have shaved their heads, not only for herself, but also to encourage other woman to be brave and not let others stop them from expressing who they are.

When asked the reason behind shaving her head, Lockett responded by explaining how attached she was to her long hair. She had cut her hair short in her senior year of high school and it traumatized her. “I loved my long hair, it was almost to my butt long” Lockett said. She felt it was a part of her and her identity. Lockett is Native-American and to her family, long hair is cherished.

Lockett shaved her head so that she could let go. Let go of the attachment to her hair and recognize herself in a whole new way. She wanted something different and said she thought about it for a couple months before finally committing. After shaving her head for the first time she “was stoked.”

“As a female with a shaved head, I have never gotten so many compliments in my life,” Lockett noted. When asked what advice she would give to anyone who was thinking about shaving their head she said, “Just do it…as a female in this society we are always going to get ridiculed and there’s always going to be a little voice in the back of our heads telling us, ‘no, its gonna look bad’ or like ‘don’t do it because other people don’t like it’ but who cares…just do it.”

Women have found that breaking these unspoken boundaries can be totally liberating. “I think every female should try shaving their head at least once,” Lockett said. Though it is not a common hairstyle among women, it proves to be something many women wish they could do, but are held back by fear.

“Consider some recent changes in the U.S. In the 1960s and 70s, beauty ideals for women shifted from the mature curvaceous body of stars such as Marilyn Monroe to the stick-thin, flat-chested figure epitomized by supermodels such as Twiggy or Kate Moss. The compelling fact here is that just as women started to make dramatic gains in the areas of education, employment and politics, the ideal female body began to look like a malnourished pre-adolescent girl, weak, emaciated and non-threatening,” stated the Body and Beauty Standards article from Bradley University’s website. Women have been making such enormous strides in freedom and power, but are still feeling compelled to diet and exercise accordingly to achieve something so subjective.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, femininity is defined as “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women.” With the United States being such a diverse nation, surely there cannot be one type of supreme femininity. Today, long hair is associated with femininity.

“It’s almost primeval, this delight men seem to take with women’s longer hair,” said Judith A. Waters, a psychology professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, who has studied managers and physical appearance. “Historically, it has been a symbol of sexuality. It represents youthfulness, freshness.” Not only do men seem to be infatuated with long hair, but they even perceive woman differently based on such a thing.

In the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, an article was published about a study done to see how men’s behaviour changes with women’s different hair lengths and styles. It was found that when the women in the study wore their hair in a way that accentuated the long length, men were more likely to help them on the street and were perceived as more feminine, young and healthy.

Long hair may have the winning vote from men and women for now but the tide seems to be shifting as more and more women are seen embracing their freedom and styling themselves in ways never seen before. There is more gender neutral dressing and there are even makeup lines for men now. The more boundaries pushed, the more freedom and acceptance men and women will have.

With people having their own individualized, preconceived ideas of what a woman should look like, it isn’t surprising that women are now listening to their own instincts when it comes to style, rather than going off of what they see in media. Changing up what is “normal” can help alleviate the pressure women feel to conform to what is most accepted. It’s possible to change the standards, and change is happening now.

“Empowering girls and women is powerful. Today, we know it is the key to economic growth, political stability, and social transformation,” according to Jin In, the founder of 4GGL – For Girls Glocal Leadership – a bold social change movement to ignite the next generation of empowered women change makers.

“To empower is to ‘invest with power’ – that change can happen when there is an investment of power by an outside source or when a group or individual somehow recognizes its inherent power,” as said by therapist Ditta Oliker in an article for Psychology Today. Women today are recognizing their power, and are finally finding the voice and methods to use it. Though shaving one’s head may seem insignificant, it can actually spark courage in someone who sees it as a message of power over one’s identity and how they are seen.

One of the powers that women have is to be an independent person who doesn’t need anyone’s approval.

Though some are still nervous about doing something that seems taboo, celebrities haven’t had a problem starting up the trend. In the past couple of years many women celebrities have been seen with the shaved head hairstyle. Some of these celebrities include: Amber Rose, Rose McGowan, Miley Cyrus, Lupita Nyong’o, Demi Moore, Jessie J and many more.

“I was inspired by Miley Cyrus. She was my go-to for style at the time,” admitted Hollie Moore, a 20-year-old college student who has shaved her head several times but now has it grown to her shoulders. When asked why she shaved her head she responded, “I just felt like I needed something to change.” Moore also reported that she had received more compliments than ever before with a shaved head, but also a couple of negative reactions.

“A couple people would flat out tell me that long hair looked better, or some guys said they didn’t like short hair on girls, but I didn’t care,” Moore said. Some of this backlash may have been expected, especially when Moore’s father first saw her hair. Her father would not let her or her entire softball team leave to dinner until she bleached her pink shaved head back to blonde. “He does not like short hair on girls,” Moore said.

Every woman who has ever done it has their own reasons for shaving their head. But in the end, it seems to deal with gaining back control in one’s life. Though Moore was mainly triggered by Miley Cyrus to try the new look, her life was hectic at the time and she needed something new. She felt she needed a change, and this was something both temporary and permanent enough to do the job.

Lockett felt too attached to her hair and gained control back by getting rid of the thing she thought she could never let go of.

Shaving your head can change your world. It can bring attention, questions and admiration into your life. Lockett and Moore were only two women out of so many who are happy they made the decision to buzz their hair off. Whether it is scary just thinking about it, or it’s something you find fascinating, women shaving off their hair is just one more awesome thing women can do. It’s possible to increase acceptance and freedom in the world and in others in so many ways.